June 4, 2013 § 3 Comments
Midday temperatures stretching towards triple digits
encourage visitors to dress lightly and arrive early
at the local park where the Watcher,
sitting silently and scanning for details
that will reveal the nature of the day, sees …
A thin man with hairy arms leads
fourteen short children higgledy piggledy
down the path that leads to the pond
where the ducks are waiting to be fed
on a warm Monday morning
that will later be remembered by six year-old minds
as an end-of-school lunch eaten at splintered wood tables
with paper bag sandwiches while brightly colored straws
bend at crooked angles from waxy milk cartons as …
A young man, baseball hat pulled low, tokes on a smoke
under a bright orange canopy and drives the giant lawnmower
whose whirling blades are layered in a thick carpet of green clippings
across the field where a yellow lab sits in stubborn determination
until the most insistent pulling on his leash and the most cajoling tones
in his ears cause him to reluctantly rise like the dragonfly
as big as a hummingbird that hovers low,
its green and purple body glistening in the sun’s rays,
its eyes reflecting the image of …
An old man with bowed shoulders who carries a tackle box in his left hand,
a rod in his right, leaves behind the small stream that has delivered his lunch
and is passed by two men strolling arm and arm, heads back and ears forward,
one waving a white cane in small circles, the other following the subtle lead
of the large German Shepherd that walking confidently in step while …
A stroller with two bonnets bobbing is pushed to the playground
by a young woman with stringy brown hair
who lifts out twin toddlers, then heavily sits at the picnic table,
head on hand, watching them climb the monkey bars
as a sleek Doberman silently keeps cadence beside a young man
who with detachment strides past the fallen child
who cries to be picked up but who is instead bundled,
with his brother, arms flailing, back into the stroller
that the young man sullenly pushes to …
The playing field where yesterday two local teams swung at small white balls
still holds the faintest echoes of the cheering crowds
that were captured and held by the large wire clam shell
behind the diamond that is today covered by paper wrappers and empty cans
but will soon be filled by disabled adults from the local center
who one by one will tumble out of a long white van
with happy cries of anticipation and head towards the dugout
where volunteers will be blowing up bright balloons
and setting out plates for a picnic lunch on this warm June day.
May 26, 2013 § 5 Comments
The man with the white legs and swinging cane
strides forward along the path that leads to the pond
where he passes an old man with a fishing pole
holding the hand of a young boy skipping.
When did last I whistle?
Four ducks pecking, heads swaying,
wander into the field ready to stab and nibble.
Rudderless they saunter in the warm morning sun,
feathers wet and glistening, carefree and complete.
When did last I travel without a destination?
The trees sing with birds;
ducks and geese punctuate the choir.
The woodpecker’s staccato beat calls forth dance
while the bell at St. Philomene calls forth prayer.
When did I last sing?
Black crow perches on the rim of the trash barrel
and caws as his beady eye appraises the pickings.
Squirrels grab seeds and dash up trees
and along branches, chattering as they fly.
What do I fill my mouth with?
A light wind blows warmth away;
trees shiver and shake their leaves in response.
Words whirl around in little dust bowls.
I gathered them up in handfuls and stuff them into my pocket.
What stories do I hold?
I bring them home to simmer and stew
while I reflect on Memorial Day;
on the Protectors who in saving others, risk their life
and on the Warriors who in taking lives, risk their soul.
What am I willing to die for?
April 17, 2013 § 4 Comments
Trees and grasses
Eat their fill
Of Father Sun
While Mother Earth
Melts winter roots
In the mud.
Resting in stillness,
Large black leaf drops
Breaks fast in the grass.
Being in stillness,
An old man with a white beard
Wears a bright orange turban;
A child points.
The brown and gray woman
Sidles past geese.
Remembering in stillness,
A red ball with blue stars
The no-more boy is remembered.
It is as if it is
The first time.
Abiding in stillness,
April 10, 2013 § 2 Comments
A high wind from the northeast barrels down the throat of the big valley,
tossing the oak’s heavy limbs like sheets on a line.
The wind is not gentle today, nor is its voice a whisper
but rather the muffled roar of a fast train in a morning’s light.
The lion of March has returned and blows young leaves off trees
and roughly presses flower heads back into their beds.
Cool and sharp and damp the lion’s breath stabs skin and bones
while the golden sun shines on in approval.
No clouds mar the smooth blue complexion of the sky,
no birds travel the currents of its highways.
Overhead a sharp silver thunderbird spreads its wings
and wrestles with headwinds on its journey north.
The surface of the creek trembles with nervous ripples
while green trash cans roll and cars rock gently at red lights.
Dogs with their walkers prance the pathways of the park,
tails plumed and waving, high noses drinking in spring aromas.
Holding my head in its windy roar, the lion catches my breath,
then flings it away.
April 1, 2013 § 1 Comment
A few pieces of my art were used in the Spring edition of THE ZEN SPACE, an online haiku journal edited by Marie Marshall. If you enjoy the minimalism of this genre of poetry, put on the tea kettle and mosey on down to … http://thezenspace.wordpress.com/experience/spring-2013-showcase/
Marie also has a blog of her own poetry at http://kvennarad.wordpress.com/author/kvennarad/. Drop by for a visit.
March 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
If I write a post for the blog or do some kind of art, I feel I have earned my keep for the day. There is a feeling of satisfaction, of duty done, of requirements fulfilled. On the other hand, when I don’t write or do art, I feel adrift, without purpose. The day seems shallow and pale.
Since February I have been in a painting cycle when art predominates. These periods usually last from six to eight weeks. At the beginning the brush feels clumsy in my hand, the paper is stubborn and the ink indifferent. What is most important at this early stage is to persevere which often means making sloppy, inarticulate pictures and wasting some good paper. It is almost a sacrificial ceremony or rite of passage.
After a day or two or three, the ink and water become more tractable, the paper receptive and the brush responsive. Then the real painting begins and usually continues for several weeks. Of the 50+ pictures produced perhaps five or six are good and I am satisfied.
The third phase of the work is the winding down process which is where I am now. I will have the desire to paint and create but the well is running dry. Slowly the brush starts to falter, the ink to smear and the paper to become cold and isolated. I know it is time to stop but I am reluctant to leave the creative high. I am reluctant to feel I am not earning my keep and so I turn to writing.
All of the words that have been left simmering on the back burners start to heat up and spill over and sputter on the grill of my mind. And so for the next month or two, I will use words rather than images to communicate. One medium is not better than another, one is not easier.
It is in this period before the new cycle takes hold that I am restless and unfocused. While I wait for the words to arrive, I think of a poem I wrote many years ago when I was just learning how to listen to the voice.
I opened a vein
and bled a poem
all over this clean white sheet
staining it a rich burgundy.
will not remove it
but you can
March 5, 2013 § 9 Comments
A young monk was sitting with his dying Zen master. “How do you feel, master,’ the student asked. “I am thinking of those golden moments of my life when I was truly awake,” the old master replied. “How many can you remember, sire?” “Twenty-five,” the old monk replied and with a sigh added, “Now, my teacher was a really great man and at the end of his life he could remember a whole hour.”
How often are we really ‘awake’? By that I mean how often are we fully alive, alert, non-personal, completely present. We are given a taste of that state periodically. Perhaps it is a dawn or sunset that is so beautiful that all thinking stops and we just see. Maybe it is the near car accident when we spin on an icy patch and time hangs suspended. It can be the sight of a newborn child, the death of a friend, an aria.
The other day I was thinking about the little Zen anecdote and began listing those out-of-time moments I have experienced in my own life. One of the earliest was climbing over a metal pipe fence, going down a steep grassy slope and exploring the small stream that ran alongside the street I walked on my way from school in the second grade.
On that spring day the rushing stream was full from recent rains which gave it a grumbling, rumbling voice. In its headlong rush to the distant river, the stream was swallowed up by the hungry mouth of the large, dark sewer pipe. A frisson of fear shot through me as I imagined myself whisked on that journey. As I scrambled up the bank, I looked across the stream and saw splashes of bright purple in the tall green grass. They were spring violets.
The other moment with violets happened more than twenty years later. One morning my younger son and I went for a walk in the nearby woods. We were strolling through a large open field on the top of a gentle hill. The lake was below, the sun above, the grass still wet with dew.
“Mommy,” I heard him call, and when I turned I saw my four-year old son, his blond hair blowing, a wide smile on his face and in his hand a fistful of wild flowers, running across the spring green grass as thousands of small pale violets were tossed and tumbled in the breeze. For an instant time stopped.
I think it is moments like these we will remember at the end of our lives – along with the ones that are more painful. Below is a poem I wrote many years ago that reminds me of these fleeting moments.
Say Not Wait
What is life but the splinters
of golden moments drilled and strung
and mounted in a net woven
by old women sitting in high clouds
chanting forgotten songs to dead heroes.
What is love but a white knight
who goes to distant lands in search
of the fair Elaine who carries the cup
whose lips Christ touched
one starry night before the blood came.
What is desire that we should say
‘wait’ or ‘I can not’ or ‘I am not ready’
because when we do, love slips away
into the forests of time leaving not
a trail for birds to follow anywhere.
So how can we say ‘no’ or ‘stop’
or ‘wait’ to the river that flows on
without ceasing. But reaching up,
let us grab the back of a fin and
slide beneath the waves and taste eternity.
December 6, 2012 § Leave a Comment
There are some things that can best, or only, be expressed in poetry. I recently put together a little book of poems most of which were written in 2012. One of my tasks for the coming year is to learn how to create e-books but for now I’ve embedded Poetry 2012 as a PDF. I hope you find something you enjoy.
November 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
On Sunday evening I received an email from Word Press saying that my Insha’Allah post would be on Freshly Pressed. I wasn’t even sure what that meant but when I looked it up I was surprised and grateful. More than 1,000 visitors came to the blog over the next two days and hundreds of them ‘liked’ the post or left messages of sympathy for the family I had written about. I know these kind thoughts were felt by my friends and I thank all of you for your compassion.
I visited the site of each person who ‘liked’ the post and spent hours reading about their many diverse and interesting journeys. There were men and women from India, Malaysia, Africa, England, Norway, Canada, Pakistan and more; they were young teenagers to old grandfathers. Some decided to follow the blog.
To all of the newcomers, I hope you enjoy future postings. They won’t all be serious or sad and they won’t be regularly scheduled. I write to examine the twists and turns of my mind, to capture a moment, to tell a story but most of all I write because I must. I hope that my ponderings find a resonance with you.
Today I have a poem for you that was inspired by our beautiful autumn weather which yesterday reminded me of the kindness of an old grandmother. The next post will be a funny one that will finally explain why women cry when they are angry.
THE GOLDEN LIGHT OF AN AUTUMN DAY
Steady, solid, centered,
This November day glows
Like a fat bellied Buddha
While green, yellow and orange trees
Are etched against the smile
Of the Mona L isa sky.
In the golden afternoon
The old dog on the porch
Trembles and dreams
Of chasing rabbits in the woods
And drinking from rocky streams
That run clear and sweet.
Her cheeks rouged with red berries,
Her lips plump as melons,
November rests as pumpkins ripen
On frost-tinged vines encircling scarecrow legs
That stand alone in brown fields
Under a chill silver moon.
Wearing the dignity of a old grandmother
Who hugs children and feeds her cat
From a clean green bowl,
November walks slowly and leans heavily,
Her cane tapping out the measure of each day
While Basho’s crow sounds a cry of joy
Wrung from the great bell of age.
Reverberations tremble through the air
To create the seed that will sleep
Until the womb of time opens
At solstice when the fire
That dances in the furnace of the sun
Ignites the fire in my soul.
September 9, 2012 § 1 Comment
I GAZE UPON THE EARTH
I gaze upon the earth from which I was drawn,
pulled head first into life,
my marrow sucked through roots and branches,
my blood siphoned from the sea,
my voice sliced from the coyote’s cry.
Given form, then loosened to find my way,
a nomad, I wandered the labyrinth of life,
not knowing, unknowing, ignorant,
I roamed, confusion in my wake,
until bone rattled, I learned to dance.
White goddess gains confidence and boldly steps
through midnight curtains, splendid, proud and unflappable.
Majestic, you arrive to survey your nocturnal kingdom,
unblinking moon eye beams down silver light
across harvested fields littered with pumpkins and corn.
My virgin sister, cool goddess of the night, Serene,
clouds hover round the corners of your mouth
as a young poet plays his flute and you float down the starry Way.
Your royal barge makes no waves in the cosmic ocean of my dreams.
Will you visit me tonight while I lay alone in the narrow bed of age?
Will you kiss my lips as once you did when I was lush
and fruit-ready, my womb wet with life?
I count the stars as they arrive singly and in pairs
until night’s ballroom moves in the ancient dance.